Off-the-grid hot tubs!

Everyone has that thing that makes winter bearable. For some people, it’s hot cocoa, ice skating, or vacations to Hawaii. I had a friend who bought a house with a hot tub. It was winter, and it was bitterly cold. I thought she was crazy for putting on her bathing suit, traipsing across the frozen deck in her bare feet and bare skin, and climbing in the hot tub. I knew I was crazy for following her. And, after about 5 seconds, I realized that I had missing out. The hot tub bubbled and steamed, and the cold wind blew so hard that it whipped up a fine, frozen mist off the top of the hot tub. Being submerged in hot water, with the frozen mist keeping my face cool was an amazing feeling. It’s a great way to beat the “I’m cold to the bone” feeling that accompanies winter in Alaska, and it makes being outside– even in freezing temperatures with a howling gale of arctic wind– enjoyable… luxurious, even.

So, my boyfriend and I were discussing my desire to own a hot tub in comparison to his assertion that we do not need one. His arguments are fantastic. We don’t have a large enough flat place in our yard for a hot tub. We live in a pretty densely populated area, so we don’t have any privacy. We would either be looking at the walls of a gazebo or in our neighbors’ windows. So, being the true born and bred Alaskan that he is, he suggested that we put a hot tub at the property. My arguments were fantastic. I can’t go up to the property at the end of every long work day. We don’t have water or electricty at the property. We can’t even get to the property in the winter since we don’t have the drive way plowed.

And, then, my world changed with these words: We don’t need electricity… just a wood-fired hot tub. I had never heard of such, and I never even conceived that such a thing would be possible. And yet, the Dutch have it all figured out already with the Dutch tub, and the Japanese have been doing it for longer than my country has been a country.

The Dutch Tub:
The Dutch Tub

Now that fancy version is over $5,000, and I don’t know how I would begin to get one to Alaska. However, with a little studying, I found that the mechanism for heating the water is really simple. Coiled tubing, made from stainless steel or even copper, allows cold water at the bottom of the tub to flow into the pipe at the bottom. As the water circulates through the coil, the fire (which sits in the center of the coil) heats the water. The water then flows out of the top pipe back into the pool. You don’t need a motor or a pump to get the water flowing– just a few quick stirs with a paddle of some sort and a fire is enough to get it started. It takes a few hours to heat the whole tub of water, but you could easily build one of these yourself. I found oil and gas companies that will coil the tubing and ship it to you for $400. You can buy a big tub from co-op stores for under $1000. We could have a few hundred gallons of water trucked up to the property with relative ease.

I’m really excited about the prospect of having a hot tub powered by heat convection at my property. I can’t wait until the snow melts so that I can get started on all my projects!

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